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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Dow paid U.S. firms to spy on Bhopal activists: Wikileaks emails


Dow paid U.S. firms to spy on Bhopal activists: Wikileaks emails

PRISCILLA JEBARAJ

ven as Dow Chemicals has resisted all compensation claims with regard to the Union Carbide gas leak disaster in Bhopal, it found the money to hire an intelligence research firm to intensively monitor all NGOs and activists working on the issue.
On Monday, Wikileaks released a cache of 5.5 million emails from the Texas-based intelligence company Stratfor, which revealed that regular monitoring reports of NGO activity as well as media coverage were sent to Dow and Union Carbide communication directors.
Dow Chemical, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, insists that it bears no responsibility to compensate victims or clean up the contaminated site of the 1984 disaster. However, these emails prove that it is still very much invested in monitoring the fallout of the disaster, and its impact on Dow's image.
A typical monitoring report begins with a round-up of all news items referencing Dow, Union Carbide or Bhopal from news wires, newspapers, television channels and news websites, both in India and abroad. It includes a comprehensive dossier on activist activity — covering court cases, online petitions, film screenings, fundraisers and publicity events, press releases, blog posts, items on message boards, emails to mailing lists, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. No event or statement seems to have been too obscure for Allis Information Management, the Michigan-based firm that prepared the monitoring reports for Dow. Intelligence analysts going so far as to track petition signers, commenters on blog posts, or those who might have retweeted a Dow-related article. Names such as Bhopal-based activists Rachna Dhingra and Satinath Sarangi find frequent mention, as well as anti-corporate pranksters, the Yes Men. In the latter part of 2011, much attention was paid to the campaign protesting Dow's sponsorship of the London Olympics.
In the lead-up to the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, Stratfor analysts also discussed the trends in activist strategies, speculating whether major NGO players would be able to connect Bhopal to the larger issue of corporate irresponsibility, the issue of "other Bhopals."
The Yes Men activists accused Dow of using "sinister spy tactics" and corporate paranoia. "These leaks seem to show that corporate power is most afraid of whatever reveals 'the larger whole' and 'broader issues', i.e., whatever brings systemic criminal behaviour to light," a Yes Men statement said on Monday.
However, while the monitoring was extensive and intensive, there does not seem to be any evidence of espionage, or of any illegal activity by Dow in this cache of emails. All the data mined by the intelligence research firm seems to be on the public domain, and openly available to any interested person.
The question Bhopal activists will be raising is why a company which can afford generous spends for such intensive data-mining against its opponents keeps the purse strings tightly shut when it comes to compensation claims demands from victims.

Cancel Dow sponsorship, government writes to IOC

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Victims of the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy shout slogan as others pose as dead bodies (foreground), during a protest against Dow Chemicals sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics, outside the Indian sports ministry in New Delhi on Monday.
APVictims of the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy shout slogan as others pose as dead bodies (foreground), during a protest against Dow Chemicals sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics, outside the Indian sports ministry in New Delhi on Monday.
The Union Sports Ministry has written to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), urging it to cancel the sponsorship of Dow Chemicals for the London Olympics.
In a letter, dated February 24, to IOC President Jacques Rogge, the Ministry's Joint Secretary Rahul Bhatnagar said that such a step by the IOC would assuage the "feelings of millions of people" and send a strong message the world over for upholding the noble ideals of the Olympic Movement.
The Ministry had asked the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) earlier to convey India's protest over the IOC and the London Games being associated with a company which is the successor of Union Carbide, which in turn was held responsible for the unprecedented gas tragedy that occurred in Bhopal in 1984.
IOC sympathises
Following a letter to Mr. Rogge by IOA President Vijay Kumar Malhotra, the IOC chief replied that the IOC sympathised with the IOA. He pointed out at the same time that the sponsorship deal with Dow was finalised when the IOC and the Games Organising Committee (LOCOG) were aware of the Bhopal tragedy.
The IOC contended that Dow did not have any connection with the gas tragedy while it had supported the Olympic Movement for over 30 years.
Dow is a Worldwide Olympic Partner since 2010 and part of its funding goes to the National Olympic Committees (NOCs), including the IOA. The IOA has not accepted the IOC's stand, but wants the government to come out with a clear statement regarding India's participation — or otherwise — in the Olympics. It would be willing to follow any government directive regarding this.
"We are not talking of a boycott," said Mr. Malhotra on Monday. "We will decide on the mode of protest after consultations with the government."
He said the IOA Executive Board meeting here on March 2 would take a decision on the matter.













India | Updated Feb 27, 2012 at 09:55pm IST

Dow asked US firm Stratfor to spy on Bhopal activists: WikiLeaks 

New Delhi: Whistleblower website WikiLeaks on Monday claimed to have in possession 'millions' of Stratfor mails that establish its links with Dow Chemicals, one of the prime accused in the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster. Stratfor is a US-based intelligence firm.
WikiLeaks alleged that it had proof that Stratfor monitored and analysed online activities of the Bhopal activists, reportedly on Dow's asking.
One of the activists, Rachna Dhingra said that she was not surprised at the expose. "We are not suprised. Dow Chemicals is a dirty company. Spying seems to be just one of its measures."
The e-mails date between July 2004 and late December 2011, WikiLeaks said.
"They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal's Dow Chemical Co, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defence Intelligence Agency," WikiLeaks alleged.
Stratfor, meanwhile, released a statement saying, "Having had our property stolen, we will not be victimised twice by submitting to questioning about them."
The website of this Texas-based organisation said that it was offering all its contents for free.
"I wanted to warn you that individuals continue to send out false communications that appear to be from Stratfor. These spam emails may contain malware and attachments, and may attempt to lead you to websites that look like our own. They may also attempt to convince you to provide your private information," says Stratfor CEO George Friedman on its website.
The e-mails posted by WikiLeaks on its website, revealed that Stratfor not only provided to Dow Chemicals and Union Carbide the analysis of the daily developments on the case related to the Bhopal Gas tragedy in Indian courts, but also the activities including the travel plans and like where they are staying or what they plan to do.
The Indian government on Monday lodged a formal complaint against Dow's sponsorship of London 2012 Olympics with the Union Sports Ministry writing to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The Union Sports Ministry strongly protested over the sponsorship.
"A false campaign has been launched by the Dow Chemical's saying that matter has been settled. It is not correct. The case is still pending in the court and no final compensation has been made. It is IOA's considered opinion that Dow Chemical's should be removed as the sponsors of the Games," the letter, written by IOA Acting President Vijay Kumar Malhotra to IOC President Jacques Rogge said.
The IOC, however, maintained that Dow Chemicals was not responsible for the Bhopal gas tragedy as it had no ownership stakes in Union Carbide till 2000, adding that they appreciated the concern of the IOA for the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy.
In a letter to IOA acting President Vijay Kumar Malhotra, IOC chief Jacques Rogge said that "IOC recognises that the Bhopal tragedy in 1984 was horrific event for India and the world. The Olympic Movement sympathises with the grief of the victims' families and regrets the ongoing suffering people face in the region."
Meanwhile, the IOA has said that India will participate in the London 2012 Olympics and a decision on the kind of protest will be taken later.
Speaking on the issue, VK Malhotra, the acting president of IOA said, "We are still protesting… we will decide on the form of protest. It will hurt the players who have qualified if we tell them that they are not going."
Later, IOA secretary Randhir Singh said that India will participate in London Olympics, adding, "How India will participate, with protest or with no protest, that is something that has to be looked into."
With additional information from PTI
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Full coverage

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